Tag Archives: Drug Policy

Is marijuana good for social justice?

It is popular to say that marijuana was made illegal because of racism. The truth is marijuana was first banned in a military hospital in Mexico City in 1882, where it was used to treat pain, in an effort to prevent violence and disorder. Mexico then banned all production, sales and recreational use in 1920, and export in 1927. This was a result of Egyptian officials asking the international community to join in a treaty to make it illegal around the globe in 1925. It wasn’t until 1985, some 60 years later, that a book by a U.S. author referred to marijuana laws as racist.

Any claims that marijuana is illegal in America because of racism are in conflict with history.

Will more pot shops in our neighborhoods and marijuana in our homes really reduce incarceration rates and improve the quality of life for minorities? We don’t think so. Every brain matters, and marijuana is an equal opportunity destroyer.


Thought Provoking Facts

The facts show that even under legalized marijuana, the poor and minority communities suffer the worst outcomes. For instance, after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, minority teens were arrested in greater numbers for marijuanaviolations. Pot shops are disproportionately situated in impoverished communities, in Colorado, also. Clearly, making the residents more susceptible to high use rates and addiction. In Denver, as an example, pot shops are heavily concentrated in Hispanic communities. This sends the message to the youth that drugs are harmless, which we know is not the case. Combine struggling schools with drug abuse and student grades are sure to plummet. We know that amotivational syndrome, a harmful side effect of pot, will cause poor educational outcomes and lead to more school dropouts. More access to this psychoactive drug will increase violence, addiction and theft, all of which have high arrest rates.

The link between marijuana use and crime is also downplayed by those who promote legalization. Industry lobbyists also tell us the the black market will disappear when marijuana is legally available. However, in legalized states, we are seeing an increase in gang activity, crime and black market sales.

What Does the Evidence Show?

Contrary to the social justice claims of the legalization activists, prison populations are rising in states where marijuana is legal and sanctioned for recreational use. Project SAM depicts these trends very clearly in these illustrated graphs for Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

William Jones III fought against legalization in his hometown of Washington, D.C. He writes a compelling opinion piece to the Philadelphia Inquirer about why marijuana legalization will harm our inner city communities. Calling marijuana toxic and addictive, he makes a strong case that pot shops will destablize communities already suffering from education and health disparities.

Other Voices on Marijuana and Social Justice

Abu Edwards, Director of State Affairs for Project SAM says state legalization will be a disaster for black communities. He clearly lays out how minorities are being used to further profit motives of big business rather than social justice. Of particular concern is how the children in his community are going to be led into a drug lifestyle by the aggressive advertising of this industry.

So, is it as the marijuana activists say, a choice between legal weed and social injustice? Dr. Kevin Sabet discusses the false dichotomy of legalization and criminalization in his TEDx PrincetonU talk. It is not a black and white issue, he advises there are many dimensions to consider, as this is an important social and public health discussion.

Take Action

You can equip yourself to debate the finer points of marijuana and social justice. We recommend taking the time to downloand and read these excellent materials.

First, take a look at this easy to navigate fact sheet, a downloadable one pager on Social Justice by Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Read also this important PopPot perspective about the disingenuous social justice argument for pot, Social Justice, the Pretext Legalizers Use to Get Support.

Once again, we rely on the great work of Project SAM on this issue. Kevin Sabet and Will Jones, III co-authored this excellent article on Marijuana Legalization, The Social Injustice which debunks many of the racially based arguments for legalization.

Now that you know, take some time and help educate 5 people you think need to know.


SAM Issues Report on the Cole Memo — All Fs

On the four year anniversary of the “Cole Memorandum” – the Obama-era guidelines allowing marijuana legalization in some U.S. states – Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing evidence-based marijuana laws and led by a former Obama-appointed official released a new report demonstrating that states with legal marijuana have failed to meet U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) rules designed to keep federal officials from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in states with legal marijuana. The report, entitled “The Cole Memo: 4 Years Later” is the first comprehensive census of open source information measuring state compliance of the eight rules designed to keep federal officials from interfering in state markets.

Here’s a Handy Way to Understand Marijuana Policy

SAM published a new educational toolkit,  based on the current marijuana policy problems, as of February 2017.   This brochure is an abbreviated guide for legislators, policy makers and others who are looking into marijuana policy.   SAM, which stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, advocates for a policy that doesn’t involve jail………………or legalization.

Handy graphic designs can help people visualize what the scientific data is saying right now.  Here’s the brochure in the pdf form.

Several states have legalized marijuana and now we have four years worth of data from Washington and Colorado.  We can compare different states’ marijuana policies and anticipate where the big problems lie.   For example, 22% of the traffic fatalities in Washington involved marijuana impairment in 2014, the year commercial marijuana stores opened.

With the help of a blue ribbon team of professional and medical advisors, SAM presents information on the following:                                *Health Risks                *Crime                 *Traffic deaths                                          *Addiction as it relates to other substances                                                      *Work-related problems                                                                                                   *Medical marijuana programs and how it effects youth usage                  *Overall problems related to marijuana usage between ages 12-17

SAM is the leading non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to a science-based marijuana policy.    SAM hopes to prevent marijuana commercialization. Through its 501 (c) (4), SAM Action, it hopes to stop marijuana legalization.

BIG MARIJUANA is following the model of BIG TOBACCO in its addiction-for-profit industry.   Meanwhile, politicians from Maryland to New Mexico have invested in this new growth industry.   What are hidden public health and social costs of promoting this drug?    Many Americans don’t seem to realize that legalization is commercialization, not decriminalization

What Child is This?

by Robert Charles, for Town Hall Magazine  

The Christmas carol is poignant – reminder of Christmas, and beyond.  “What child is this, who, laid to rest …” the carol begins.  “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?” it continues.  The stanza ends, “Haste, haste ….”  Lovely, lilting, full of promise – like the birth of a child.  Here, a special child – but also every child.

In a season of joy, it is a message is joy.  But the mind wanders, also to our mortal world.  New numbers on drug addiction and drugged driving death, so many lost souls – mitigate the joy.   They caught me off guard this week. My brother, a high school teacher, shared with me the loss of another student, another fatal crash, as drugged driving numbers rise.  What is the season for heartbroken parents – but a season of loss?  Each year, upwards of 100,000 parents lose a child to drug abuse.

What child is this?  It is America’s child, and America’s childhood.  How is it that we have, collectively, forgotten to keep watch over those entrusted to our watch – especially from high office?  Last year, 47,055 Americans, most of them young, were lost to drug abuse – just statistics now.  Why?

In part, because so many Americans have heard a mixed message from their leaders – with devastating effects. Led to believe drugs are “recreation,” something not different from beer or wine, kids try and soon die.  Synthetic opioids, heroin, cocaine, high potency marijuana – and then a trip to the ER, or not even, on the way to a mortuary.  Numbers do not lie.

dark-side-of-cannabis-featured-image
The Dark Side of Marijuana Photoshop image taken from art of Edvard Munch

Drugged driving is now another epidemic.  Drivers and helpless passengers are all at risk, along with everyone on the road.  Near home, not long ago, several kids died in a terrible car crash.  They missed a bend and hit a tree.  The sister of a child known to my son was almost in that car – but courageously declined the ride.  She knew the driver was compromised.  That decision saved her life.  Unfortunately, the searing truth caught others off guard.  Drugged driving is death on wheels, period.  Drug legalization is the unabashed promoter of that death.  So, where are the shepherds?  Where are the outspoken leaders, who know this – but are silent?

What child is this, who starts with marijuana, soon is addicted, ends overdosing on opiates or as a roadside cross?  What child is this, who needed knowledge from someone they trust – but get misinformation?  What child is this, who is force-fed popular lies, that drug abuse is “recreation?”

And what child is this, “greeted by angels,” who was forsaken here – by knowing leaders for political advantage?  “Laid to rest” by parents’ inconsolable hands?  Where were leaders, a thoughtful president, governor, congressman, legislator, mayor?  How could we, in a blink, give up 50,000 souls – this year, again?  Silence is not just holy – it can also be complicit.  Permitting legal expansion of drug abuse, legalized money laundering, an insidious tax grab and a Federal blind eye – comes at the expense of young lives.   That is the truth.

Needed in this season of change are new national and community leaders, who are unafraid to say:   Do not compromise the future.  Do not risk everything for nothing.  Do not break faith with yourself, or those counting on you.

The mind wanders … from a Christmas carol to those not here to celebrate.  To parents, siblings, friends and teachers sadly forced to ask “what if…”  And bigger questions:  What if the legalization pabulum and knowing disinformation were stopped?  What if drugs that addict and kill were less available?  What if policy indifference turned to saving young lives, not putting them at risk?

Said Henry David Thoreau, every child is an “empire.”  But today, these empires are falling fast.  The risk inherent in our indifference, disinformation, disregard for truth, and treating death as recreation.  Addiction’s darkness comes on fast.  Life soon narrows, ambitions die, dependence rises, users are boxed in, relationships and functions degraded, nightmares start and then the awful, big question – who cares?

deathinthesickroom
Edvard Munch’s Death in the Sickroom, 1895, is  still relevant today with the number of families watching their children hopelessly addicted or dying. Top image: Munch’s The Day After

These days, few seem to – not the president, Congress, many state “leaders.”  They just go along.  Meantime, more families are drained and left alone – victims of widening drug abuse, drugged driving, drug-related crime, and life-changing addictions.  The Trump team has a chance to say:  Enough, experiment over.  That would help American families stop grieving, and save kids from this unparalleled dance with false information and societal indifference.  That would be leadership – and long overdue.  So, pull the Drug Czar back to Cabinet rank, put Federal resources and smart people on enforcing the law, and educate the country.

“What child is this?”  It is America’s child.  With new hope and real leadership – may we have no more compromises with evil, but truth spoken to power, and power to people.  Let us stand watch, shepherds for young America.  “Haste, haste …” in this and all seasons.  There is a resolution for the new year.

Robert Charles is a columnist for Town Hall Magazine.  He also wrote Return the Drug Czar to Cabinet.  Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement under George W. Bush, former Naval Intelligence Officer and litigator, who served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.  He wrote the book “Narcotics and Terrorism,” and writes widely on national security and law.